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    Coronavirus - advice and information for recreational boaters

    Guidance for boaters (updated 07/01/21)

    Government Guidance

    It is critical for everybody to observe the following key behaviours:

    • HANDS - Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
    • FACE - Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
    • SPACE - Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).

    RYA return to boating strategy

    The RYA publishes a considerable amount of detailed information to support its “Return to Boating” strategy across the boating community.  The RYA has also published updated FAQ for clubs, classes and RYA recognised training centres. 

    In the Home Countries, the RYA return to boating strategy depends on how the devolved administrations assess the threat. People who live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the guidance provided by their administrations and in the country specific links that follow further below.

    1. Our guidance

    Covid-19 preventative measures are vital in keeping you, your family and others safe and to minimise pressure on frontline services. The RYA will continue to support the national effort to control the spread of Covid-19 and assist members of the RYA family with any variations that might develop at a local level.  We support the Government's Winter Plan to return to normality in a measured way and we recognise that we have a role to play by providing guidance to the RYA community on the application of the all tier regulations.

    2. Our approach

    Our guidance on safe boating remains unchanged: know your limits; look after yourself; keep in touch and, above all, have a plan; we advise boaters to think carefully about these factors.

    As always, all of us should carefully consider the potential impact that we could have on other water users when we go afloat and ensure that we do not place any unnecessary strain on the RNLI, Independent Lifeboats and other emergency services.  We can do this by helping to minimise risk and by being considerate in our approach to our boating and acting responsibly.

    Coronavirus regulations

    The latest regulations enable the Government and devolved administrations to respond to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of the virus and its variant.  

    While guidance sets out how Governments expect people should behave, the regulations set out how people must behave and it is the regulations (rather than the guidance) that may be enforced within the law.

    The regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differ but are still aimed at controlling the virus. People in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the specific rules for those parts of the UK and read the more detailed guidance on the RYA Home Country pages referred to below and which is relevant to boating in the Home Counties. 

    Recreational boating in England

    The Government published new guidance for the national lockdown in England on 4 January 2021. The new guidance is continually updated and summarises what you can and cannot do during the lockdown.  The Tier 4 restrictions have been strengthened and now apply to every area in England.  In addition, the expiry date for the Regulations has been extended until 17 July 2021.

    In summary, you must not leave or be outside of your home unless you have a reasonable excuse to do so – a non-exhaustive list of exceptions is given in both the regulations and the guidance - and you cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).

    You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. The government guidance asks us to limit this to once per day and asks us not to travel outside the local area. The government does not specify what exercise is and what it is not for obvious reasons and it our understanding that boating is permitted as a form of exercise but only within the rules for meeting others. 

    The RYA is continuing to review the latest legislation, however in the meantime we have prepared a set of FAQs based on what we believe the guidance means for recreational boating in England.

    Recreational boating in Scotland

    Updated guidance available at the Return to Boating page of the RYA Scotland website continues to provide support and detailed guidance across all forms of boating.

    Recreational boating in Northern Ireland

    For information specific to Northern Ireland for affiliated organisations and individuals, please visit the Northern Ireland Return to Boating page.

    Recreational boating in Wales

    For the latest information, please visit the RYA Cymru Wales Return to Boating Wales pages.


    The RYA’s advice to all our members is that you should check your insurance policy with your insurers no matter what the policy itself actually states, particularly if the latest restrictions are preventing you from visiting your boat. Our understanding is that most insurers are willing to extend the period when boats are left unattended and we would be surprised if any insurer refused to extend this provision, although there is likely to be a condition that the vessel must have been adequately maintained prior to lockdown.

    UK canals and rivers

    Guidance for the Canal & River Trust navigations was last updated on 4 January 2021 and you should look at its coronavirus and boating FAQs for more information.

    Recreational boating abroad

    The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to many countries and territories on the basis of COVID risks. Different rules apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  You must follow all the rules that apply to you.    

    The European Union has set up a website and a mobile app where you can see if travel is possible to each member state, the requirements of each destination, and other information to answer travellers’ questions. Go to Re-open EU for travel information and guidelines for each destination.

    Noonsite provides a considerable amount of information that may help recreational boaters abroad and its Covid-19 document has guidance as well as links to the latest developments.

    Entering or returning to the UK

    You must self-isolate on entering or returning to the UK if, at any point in the 10 days before your arrival, you have visited or made a transit stop in a non-exempt country, territory or island.  A non-exempt country, territory or island is any country, territory or island that is not on the travel corridors list. Some people do not have to complete a passenger locator form and/or self-isolate because of their job.

    You will need to complete a public health passenger locator form unless you are travelling within the Common Travel Area and have been in the Common Travel Area for the past 10 days. 

    You should follow separate advice if you need to self-isolate in:

    International recreational vessel arrivals

    Attention is drawn to the following requirements for those arriving at a UK port on recreational vessels from overseas. 

    Unless exempt, all international recreational maritime arrivals entering the UK will need to quarantine on arrival into the UK. This self-isolation can be completed on the vessel. These rules apply to both UK residents and visitors. 

    All international recreational maritime vessels arriving in the UK, apart from those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man (the Common Travel Area/CTA), must complete a mandatory Passenger Locator Form.   

    To get in touch

    Should RYA members require any advice related to the guidance on this page please contact the RYA Cruising Team on +44 (0) 23 8060 4233 (please have your membership number to hand) or email (please include your membership number in your email).

    For other enquiries, call the RYA on +44 (0) 23 8060 4100. 

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